Needed: Spring Color

by connie on March 21, 2014

GroupPtdCookiesIt’s still too chilly to check the ground for emerging bulbs and besides, there’s still a lot of snow cover in shady spots, and some snow is predicted for next week too. So, let’s just pretend that spring will be here soon and rush it a bit by bringing some color into our lives. It’ll be fun to paint some colorful cookies to cheer us out of the winter doldrums. And before we know it  we will be complaining about the heat.

PtgBunniesToolsYou will need some molded cookies (Lemon Springerle would be a refreshing spring choice) that you have already baked and cooled. And collect a bottle of triple sec (orange flavored liquor that you might have around to make margaritas), a small low dish (sometimes I use a large bottle cap), some small brushes that are dedicated to food use, some styrofoam plates to use as palettes and some gel food coloring. A few paper towels or rags that you don’t mind ruining with food color  will be handy too.

Once you have assembled all your tools, squirt out a small drop of  each color you wish to use on the styrofoam plate and pour some triple sec into the small dish. You will be using the triple sec as a painting medium, instead of water. The alcohol will evaporate rather than soak into the  cookie, so your Springerle will not get soggy and it also has some thickness to it, because of the sugar, which makes it easier to control when you are painting the cookies. I chose to use just four colors for this cookie: yellow, green, rose pink and brown. Iput a little white gel color on the plate in case I wanted pastels, but in the end I did not use the white, but just thinned down the gel colors with the triple sec.

PtgBrownIt is kind of like color book coloring. Or paint by number, since there is no drawing to be done. You pick one element of the design and fill in that area with color. I started with brown by wetting my brush with triple sec and mixing in some brown gel and then painted in the basket section. If it seemed to dark, I immediately added a little triple sec to my brush. For this large area I used a small flat brush. I chose to use the same brown gel for the body of the rabbits, just adding more triple sec to make a lighter shade of brown, again, if it seemed to dark, adding more triple sec. Using this technique, I was able to get some variation in the browns to make the already three dimensional surface seem even more dimensional. You can also go back and add a little more brown to add shaded areas.  Next, I painted in the grass. I thought the green to be too green (St. Patrick’s Day is behind us) and with spring in mind , mixed a little yellow into the bright green to create a nice lime green and using yet more  triple sec ,to keep it light handed, painted the grass and leaves.

PtgPinkYellow

Now the roses were painted rose pink and the eggs yellow. I also painted the heart held by the bunnies with a very pale pink, having thinned down the same pink gel with lots of triple sec. I use a small round brush on these smaller elements. I also used some brown with not much triple sec to accent the eyes. I do have some experience in painting, so am very comfortable painting. If you have never done this, it will take just some practice. So be patient and take time to have fun with this. Don’t forget that this is a cookie and some cookie monster is going to snarf it right down. Experiment with how much triple sec to use. Try out the colors on a reject cookie or on the back of a cookie. And use a light touch. Try to hold the brush somewhat loosely in your hand. Keep your brush clean by whisking it in the triple sec and dabbing it on the paper towel. Repeat as necessary. I most often find it is best to stick with 3 or 4 colors and to leave some ares unpainted.

SinglePaintedCookieWhen I began photographing the plate of cookies, I noticed that I had missed the egg in the center of the basket, and so painted it yellow before I took those photos. No fretting; remember that you are celebrating the coming of spring. By keeping it simple and only using a few colors, you will be able to paint more cookies faster. If you want to paint a lot of cookies in the same manner, you could do it assembly style. In explanation, paint 20 baskets, then all the bunnies, then the grass, etc. See the finished cookie at right, well, except for the one middle egg. You can certainly make the cookie a couple of weeks before you serve them, paint a few samples to get get process down, then store the cookies and paint them a day or so before you serve them.

Very Pretty!

 

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Convection Perfection

by connie on January 30, 2014

For a long time I have wanted to experiment with baking Springerle using the convection option on my oven and, oh boy, am I sorry I waited so long. I so often get caught  up in getting cookies made  for events, classes, and gifts, that the pressure of deadlines has always made me delay the testing. An extraordinarily cold January  of dangerous road conditions and self enforced hibernation made any further delay inexcusable . Plus, I  had actually completed about 90% of my  consuming year-end bookkeeping.   Additionally, I was aided by cold dry weather so ideal for the drying process , that I found the experience almost too easy. Utilizing convection baking on only two batches of Springerle has convinced me that this will soon become my norm.

I made two batches of dough, both Nini’s Perfection Springerle recipe, one traditional anise and one lemon. Both batches of dough were made and refrigerated in a tightly sealed bags for about 12 hours before I shaped the Springerle. The anise batch was formed into the following  cookies: 24 Hearts and Rose (approximately 3.25 x3.25 inch hearts), 25 Hearts United  (approximately 2.25 x 1.5 rectangles), 36 Fleur de Lis (cut with a 1.75 inch fluted round cutter) and 8 Cupid in Heart (approximately 2 x 2.25 inch heart). The lemon dough was made into the following cookies: 53 Amo Te Heart ( approximately 2.75 x 2.75 inch heart), 24 Heartstrings (1.875 x 1.875 inch hearts), and 1 Quilted Heart (approximately 4.5 x 4.5 inch heart). My cookie mold choices were clearly intended to make the cookies into appropriate Valentine’s treats, but I also wanted to test various sizes and shapes, and also to test some molds that have some flat areas with no carving, since those areas are the most likely to have large air bubbles. All the cookies were dried between 24 and 28 hours on parchment paper lined cookie sheets before I began baking them.

Most ovens that have a convection option will instruct you to lower the temperature 25 degrees below the temperature that would be used in a conventional oven. And so it is with my oven. My oven manual also indicates that cookies will need the same baking time when using convection baking and that seems to also be pretty much the case, maybe only a minute or so less than with the conventional oven. You should , of course consult your oven’s manual, if you decide to try using the convection option.

I used the middle rack for all of this testing and I had an entire tray of one design on each tray. I baked each tray of cookies on the parchment paper on which they were dried, and all trays were shiny aluminum that allowed at least 2 inches of space away from the walls of the oven. These are standards that I always recommend for all Springerle baking. I may in the future try baking 2 trays of the same size and shape cookie at the same time in the convection mode, just to see how it works. Baking 2 trays in the conventional oven is not something I ever do, as I do not get consistent results.

Hearts United

The first tray baked was the one of 25 Hearts United, 2.25 x 1.5 rectangles. This cookie is a very standard Springerle cookie size and many multiple and single molds are of this approximate size, so, this seemed to me a very good starting point for this test. This is the size that I think is the easiest to bake in a conventional oven and also such a good eating size, so it is important that the convection work for this particular size. I would bake this size at 320 or 325 degrees for 12-13 minutes if using the conventional oven. I chose 300 degrees in the convection mode; I baked them for 10 minutes, then turned the tray around and baked them 2 more minutes. Excellent results were achieved. Consistent and even rising on the entire tray and I broke cookies to reveal a beautifully baked dry cake like texture in the center of the cookies. Off to a good start, but I know that size cookie is the least challenging size to bake.

 

 

HeartandRoseCloseupNext I baked a tray of Hearts and Rose, 3.25 x3.25 inch hearts, larger and heart shaped cookie with the entire surface having design relief, in other words, no flat areas. They were baked at 300 degrees convection, first for 8 minutes, then turned in the oven and then baked for 5 more minutes. I am always careful to turn the trays quickly to maintain the temperature in the oven. Again, I was very pleased with the consistent results. It is clear to me that the oven temperature is not suffering from hot and cold spots, which can cause cookies on the same tray to bake at different speeds, resulting in some under baked or some over baked specimens. As an experienced baker of Springerle cookies, I know that the challenge of making a good Springerle is to have enough rise in the leavening to have a cake like texture, but to control the rising to preserve the imprinted design. I am not willing to compromise taste and texture for the sake of the design. In fact, I am willing to have a slightly imperfect visual on the cookie, because it is,  after all,  meant to be eaten.

FleurWithCracks

Next up, Fleur de Lis cookies cut with a 1.75 inch fluted round cutter. I baked one tray at 300 degrees convection for 5 minutes, turned the tray and baked for 5 more minutes. The inside of the cookies were the perfect dry cake like texture that I try to achieve, so that’s great, but if you look closely you can see some small cracks in the middle of the cookies on the  two cookies on the right side of the photo. I baked a second tray of  this same cookie at 290 degrees convection and still noticed a few tiny cracks. Not a deal breaker, but I noticed that cookies that I had rolled pressed more thinly  (the two cookies on the left side of the photo) were perfect. So, note to self, on smaller cookies that are more likely to puff up quickly be sure to make them a bit thinner. Also true in conventional oven baking of Springerle. (This is why you might want to keep a little notebook of your conditions, sizes, thicknesses, etcetera, so that your experiences teach you lessons and so you don’t forget what you learned.) But such even rising makes the convection option so very wonderful.

CupidinHeartCloseThe last cookie design that I baked was a tray of 8 Cupid in Heart cookies. These cookies measure 2 x 2.25 inches , heart shaped. Because of the flat areas (flat areas sometimes have flat puffy areas) around the cupid, I elected to use the 290 degree convection oven and baked them 6 minutes, turned them and baked an additional 6 minutes. Fine results again and now I am firmly advocating a convection oven for Springerle baking.

I continued baking the lemon cookies that I had formed with equally successful results. I baked Amo Te Heart cookies at 300 degrees for 8 minutes, turn and then 4 more minutes. Smaller Heartstrings cookies where baked at 295 degrees for 6 minutes, turned and baked an additional 5 minutes. Wanting to test one larger cookie, the Quilted Heart cookie was baked at 290 degrees convection for 8 minutes, turned and then baked for 7 additional minutes. All of these turned out extremely well.

Here is the consensus: convection baking of springerle, with it’s even circulating heat, is a terrific option for baking Springerle cookies. The weather now is so cooperative for their proper drying and makes baking such an enticing activity. Try it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baking Bread Today

by connie on January 27, 2014

We closed the office today because of the frigid weather, which gave me the opportunity to bake bread, while I am working at home. It’s nice to take the time to make something that requires that I be at home during the entire process. I feel like a kid on a snow day! I just shaped the loaf for it’s rise and will try this recipe on my baking stone. Fresh whole wheat bread right out of the oven for dinner tonight! Yum!

OK…..back to work!

Stay Warm!

Connie

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OOPS!

by connie on September 25, 2013

I made a batch of  Springerle  last week and made a mistake I thought I would never make! I failed to add the harsthorn dissolved in milk that was sitting right there next to the mixer. Yikes! In more than 20 years of making these, I have never done that.

Just keep at it, mistakes are OK. (Just never do it again!)

Happy Baking!

Connie

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Tips for Using Rollling Pins

by connie on August 23, 2013

Using  patterned rolling pins to make Springerle cookies is the fastest and most efficient way to make them. Need 1000 cookies for the church bazaar? Your family members eat them by the dozen? You are the only one in your family that still bakes them, but everyone expects you to send them for the holidays? Then, a rolling pin might be for you.

There are two main problems that may be encountered when using the rolling pins: cookies that are slanted on the top surface and cookies that are alternately thick and thin. Firstly, most of us have a stronger arm and so you need to be aware of this fact, so think about applying even pressure on both sides of the rolling pin as you roll. If you roll without considering this, those of you who are right handed will naturally have cookies that are thinner on the right side. So practice and think even pressure as you roll. Secondly, once you start rolling the Springerle rolling pin over the dough, DON’T STOP, because if you do you will release pressure and that area will be thicker and when you resume rolling the pressure will be heavier. So, COMMITT and keep rolling until you run out of dough!

These tips require that you already roll out your Springerle dough to an even thickness and slightly wider than the width of your rolling pin. I also suggest that you roll the dough a little thicker than you would for a single press and don’t forget to consider the depth of the carving on your rolling pin. And remember , it will always be easier to roll on a table level than countertop level, allowing you to apply pressure using you shoulders as well as your arms.

Go forth and make many, many  Springerle!

Connie

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Cool It!

by connie on August 8, 2013

Don’t forget to cool down your cookie sheets before baking another tray of Springerle. All time and temperature suggestions are based on using room temperature cooking sheets when you place the tray into the oven. A small but simple tip that may be helpful.

Connie

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Which cookie sheets to use for Springerle

by connie on May 3, 2013

Oh those Springerle are persnickety! They even demand their own cookie sheets!
Yep…the cookie sheets you use for baking Springerle will have an impact on the success of you cookies. I have the best results with shiny aluminum pans. Dark colored pans will overbrown and overbake Springerle. Insulated cookie sheets, while an excellent choice for soft gooey or chewy cookies, also tend to overbrown the bottoms of Springerle cookies.
Now about the size of your cookie sheets…….Make sure you have cookie sheets that have at least 2 inches of space around the sides of the pan in your oven. When I moved and started using a new oven that was wider, but less deep, I did not have much space on the front and back edges of the cookie sheet and experienced some less than good results with cookie sizes that I had never had problems with before. As soon as I replaced the cookie sheets with narrower width cookie sheets, the problems were solved. It is important to remember that much of the success of baking these Springerle cookies is that it is all about controlled leavening. Thus, it makes sense that even circulation in your oven will yeild better results!

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Metric Thickness of Dough

by connie on April 14, 2013

In making springerle, rolling the dough thickly enough before imprinting with the cookie mold will make a big difference in the beauty of the print. A couple of people have asked the thickness in millimeters. For most cookie molds I suggest that the dough be rolled to about 0.50 inches which is 12.7 mm. If a cookie mold is very shallow, roll the dough slightly thinner and if it is a very deep mold, roll the dough slightly thicker. You will be applying additional pressure when you press the mold onto the dough and if it is not thick enough, you will not get the impression of the deeper parts of the carving.

Try it! Using a medium depth mold, roll a small amount of dough about 8mm thick and press your mold into the rolled dough, and then roll a small amount of dough about 13mm thick and compare the prints! Or just try it with play dough and see the difference

Connie

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You Can Still Make Springerle

by connie on December 21, 2012

You’ve been busy; I get it. You meant to have your Springerle neatly packed in silver tins on Thanksgiving weekend, but somehow it’s only 4 days until Christmas and you finally have some time this weekend to make them. If you want the traditional flavor  anise, as I do, you probably know that aging the cookies  will develop the anise flavor.

So here’s what you can do: add some extra anise oil and enjoy your springerle on Christmas Day. I know many of you are using different recipes than mine, so add about 20% more anise oil to your batch. So in a recipe calling for 1/2 teaspoon of anise oil, I would add a scant 1/8 teaspoon of extra oil since 1/8th teaspoon would be 25% of 1/2 teaspoon. Not good with math? Here is a chart with a few measurements and the additional amounts:

1 teaspoon             add scant 1/4 teaspoon

1/2 teaspoon         add scant 1/8 teaspoon

2 teaspoons           add scant  1/2 teaspoon

1 1/2 teaspoons     add scant 1/4 teaspoon and scant 1/8 teaspoon

Don’t change the fruit oil (lemon or orange) or nut oil measurements . They will be fine. In fact, I like to enjoy the lemon and orange Sringerle right away.

Enjoy the Holidays and a Very Merry Christmas to you!

Connie

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More Summer Springerle Tips

by connie on July 11, 2012

I discovered a few more tricks that are helping me cope with the challenges of summer Springerle baking, so I’ll share them here with all of you:

  • Make the dough, place it in a tightly sealed plastic bag and then refrigerate it overnight and up to 2 days before forming the cookies.
  • When you place the cookies on a surface to dry, give them plenty of spacing, at least 2 inches of air space around each cookie.
  • Let the cookies dry longer than 24 hours. Try 36 or 48 hours for larger cookies.
  • Dry the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with flour sack tea towels, which will absorb more moisture than parchment paper and then move the dried cookies to a cookie sheet for baking.

I hope these tips will help you!

Connie

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